The Holocaust survivor lives through Nazi terror as Putin’s war rages on
When the first Russian missiles hit Ukraine, Steven Frank BEM was reminded of the harrowing events he witnessed when the Nazis invaded his neighborhood 82 years ago.
The Holocaust survivor said he was “deeply shocked” when Vladimir Putin launched the unprovoked attack, which sparked childhood memories of seeing Hitler’s troops on the streets of Amsterdam.
Ahead of this week’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Steven, 87, told Metro.co.uk that it was “incredibly important” to hold those responsible for alleged war crimes in Ukraine accountable.
He is one of the few remaining contemporary witnesses who can speak of the horrors in Europe that destroyed his family life in the city after the invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.
The Nazis arrested his father and took the rest of his family to the Theresienstadt camp in occupied Czechoslovakia, where he survived as one of only 93 children out of 15,000 sent there.
“The world seems to have learned nothing from the horrors of the Holocaust,” Steven said.
“If you look at the number of genocides that have taken place since World War II and what is going on in Ukraine now, there is a very similar parallel between what Putin is doing and what Hitler was doing.
“I can remember when we were attacked, it’s a terrible feeling when you’re attacked by a foreign force. You are told that you cannot do this and that you cannot do this and are restricted in your movements.
“Even though I was only five years old, I can remember what happened and I found it really exciting. I remember seeing the soldiers with the boots and the gray coats and their guns in the streets.
“As a child, I hardly knew what their sinister intentions were.”
The reality soon became clear as the secular Jewish family, which had turned down opportunities to flee to England, was broken up by the occupying forces. Steven’s father, Leonard Frank, a highly respected lawyer who engaged in illegal resistance activities, including helping people flee to Switzerland, was arrested, imprisoned and tortured.
His wife Beatrix and their three sons were transported to two camps one after the other before ending up in appalling conditions at Theresienstadt, where disease alone killed thousands.
Beatrix and the children survived the end of the war, the liberation of the camp by the Red Army, and they were flown by the RAF to England, where they gradually rebuilt their lives.
She was never reunited with her father after his arrest; He was deported from prison in the Netherlands to Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland, where he was gassed at the age of 39.
Seventy-eight years after the liberation of the concentration and death camp, aspects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that evoke parallels with World War II include the reported forced deportations of children from occupied territories and the uncovering of mass graves in Irpin and Bucha.
Baroness Sal Brinton described the alleged resettlement in the House of Lords on Thursday as a “startling echo” of how the Nazis resettled Polish children into German families.
“When the invasion of Ukraine began last February, I was very upset,” Steven said.
“I thought, ‘Gosh, this is exactly how it happened in the 1930s.’
“Where will this all end? When you see the brutality that is going on in this war it is absolutely horrific and I feel so sorry for all the Ukrainian refugees who have had to flee their homes and their countries, we have one living next to us.’
Steven, who lives in Hertfordshire, is an influential speaker dedicated to telling children about the Holocaust, during which the Nazis murdered six million Jewish men, women and children.
Some of the most notorious Nazis responsible for wartime crimes were tried in Nuremberg after the German surrender in 1945.
There have been repeated calls from Western leaders for a special international tribunal to try the Russian leaders behind alleged war crimes in Ukraine, which Kyiv says includes 62,000 cases, including the deaths of more than 450 children.
“I think it’s incredibly important that they are held accountable, but the question is whether the perpetrators can be brought to justice,” Steven said.
“They are sitting safely behind thousands of kilometers of Russian territory. What I find terrible is that the people of Russia are unable or unwilling to protest what is happening.”
Established in 2000, the anniversary marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 1945.
The theme of this year’s memorial, overseen by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, is “Ordinary People.” The idea is to go beyond the industrial scale of killing and to see the persecuted as individuals living beyond images of death and war.
It also serves as a reminder that the genocide was made possible by the participation and consent of people from all walks of life.
On that day, Steven, who has three children, three stepchildren and 14 grandchildren, will give a lecture at a London girls’ grammar school as part of his mission to harness the power of testimonies to remember one of history’s darkest days .
He said: “It’s amazing how 9th graders take it all in with all sorts of other things on their minds.
“Again and again schools give me feedback to say that all the outsiders who have come in to talk about all sorts of things is what they remember most about a Holocaust survivor.
“Hopefully when they remember this they will think critically about what is going on around them.
“The theme of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day is ordinary people, and it’s important to remember that the Holocaust was perpetrated by many people, from garbage collectors to churches. Everyone took part, that’s the danger and horror of this hell.”
The international day is intended to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and those who died in more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Those attending on Friday will light candles in their windows at 4pm, while iconic buildings and landmarks will be illuminated in purple.
“These things are very, very important,” Steven said. “People are beginning to understand the importance of Holocaust Remembrance Day and perhaps learn the Ukrainian background behind all the news that is coming out.
“People are beginning to realize that democracy is a very fragile thing.”
The day is also intended to send a broader signal against hate and prejudice and encourage people to speak out against the Nazis like Steven’s father did.
Karen Pollock CBE, Executive Director of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “On Holocaust Remembrance Day we also pay tribute to the incredible survivors, many of whom continue to bear witness day in, day out, to ensure that future generations never forget the horrors of the past.
“This year, tens of thousands of people across the country will hear from a survivor as part of their memorial services.
“By hearing a witness, they become witnesses with a powerful responsibility to share what they have learned and to speak out against the anti-Semitism and hatred that made the Holocaust possible.”
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https://metro.co.uk/2023/01/22/holocaust-survivor-relives-nazi-terror-while-putins-war-rages-on-18118467/ The Holocaust survivor lives through Nazi terror as Putin's war rages on